Apparently soccer is the rest of the world’s sport, and has little place in an already congested sports culture in the United States. At least that is what many would have you believe. Don’t try telling that to those who have been following Connecticut’s latest professional sports franchise. Despite only being about a year since the creation of the club, the passion already runs deep in this team from players until the supporters.
Hartford City FC is currently in the midst of its inaugural season in the National Premier Soccer League, which is on the fourth tier in the U.S Soccer ladder. For such a new team, the level of professionalism and commitment from all involved is incredibly impressive. Thanks to a clearly top notch marketing team and from my personal connections at Springfield College (shout out to #15 Connor, #17 Luke and assistant coach Steffen Siebert!), I knew this wasn’t something I wanted to miss out on. Primarily though, as an aficionado of the beautiful game, I was happy to be finally catch a game this weekend as the team took on the Kingston Stockade in a league clash.
You never quite know what to expect when going to a game like this. There have been several failed attempts to sell the sport all over the country but I had only heard positive things about this club and I can assure you that I was not left disappointed.
The team is mostly made of recent graduates from New England NCAA schools ranging from Division I to Division III. The cream of the crop has been carefully selected by the coaching staff to mold a young, energetic and certainly talented squad. The local flavor only adds even more sincerity to the concept of the team slogan: “Our City, Our Team”.
The game hadn’t even kicked off yet and I was already falling in love with the occasion. Anyone who has ever attended a soccer game before will realise that the atmosphere is as important, if not more important, than the game itself. The home games take place at Central Connecticut State University’s picturesque soccer specific complex. No matter what your favourite sport is, the CCSU Athletic Complex will have something to catch your eye. It is the perfect setting for a high quality game.
Then you quickly become familiar with the wide variety of supporters that are streaming through the gates. You have fans both young and old attending the games, many of whom are already decked out in the Hartford City team gear. Visible team merchandise really goes a long way to creating the right vibe for a game and that mission was easily accomplished here.
Last but not certainly not least you have the ‘Agents of Hale’, the official supporters group of the team. They perfectly encompass what is needed from the fan experience at any level of the sport. They are good natured in their chants for the most part but also incorporate well timed heckling of opposing players too. And maybe it is just me, but the constant beat of a drum just makes a soccer game that little bit better! Most importantly, the Agents also attempt to get as many of the fans involved as possible, which is of course the ultimate goal of any supporters group. They did not let up for the entire 90 minutes, hats off to the Agents!
The game itself was a brilliantly entertaining encounter especially in a ferociously paced first half. The Stockade took an early lead but a quick fire brace by former Springfield College forward Luke Alvaro turned the tide back in Hartford’s favour. There was to be an equalizer before the break though as the Stockade continued to push back in what was a pulsating opening 45.
The second half was also a wide open affair with both teams clearly not intent on settling for the draw. The home side had the slight edge in the overall play but sadly for their passionate following, could not find the winner and the game ended with honors even.
If you have not yet been to a HCFC game I cannot recommend it more highly. It already is clearly a wonderful addition to the Connecticut professional sports domain. The facilities at CCSU are top class, the atmosphere is jovial, and of course the on field product should keep even the most cynical soccer fan entertained! The team is off to an undefeated start so far four games into their inaugural season and it is definitely worth a couple of hours of anyone’s time.
Keep up the good work HCFC!